RI's badminton women need to learn from Chinese
By Primastuti Handayani
KUALA LUMPUR (JP): There is no doubt the Chinese women dominate badminton. Proof enough is the slew of international titles with Chinese names on them.
They walked away from the Putra Indoor Stadium here on Saturday with the Uber Cup. They grabbed the sport's most prestigious women's team event by defeating European favorite Denmark, which reached its third final in the event.
It is riding the crest of victory, but when will its heyday come to an end?
The answer may be in the next 10 years, according to Danish head coach Kenneth Larsen. He said all strong badminton countries -- Denmark, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan -- must work much harder to narrow the gap with the Chinese.
The alternative is for international matches to remain monotonous, one-sided and boring foregone conclusions.
Spectators will stay away in droves from a sport desperately trying to improve its image, especially among the young.
Is there anyone out there knocking on the monumental "Chinese wall" in singles?
The rest of the world only has talented but temperamental Dane Camilla Martin, the Netherlands has new recruit Indonesian-born Mia Audina, Wales can rely on Kelly Morgan and Japan has Kanako Yonekura.
Their efforts have not been able to stem the Chinese advance. The lone Indonesian who was able to stop Beijing's domination was Susy Susanti, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist and the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist. Along with Bang Soo-Hyun of South Korea, she was one of the few non-Chinese players to win major International Badminton Federation (IBF) tournaments in the 1990s.
Indonesia does not have a player of Susy's caliber at present, with Mia long expected to take her place after retirement. Indonesia today needs a good recruitment program, plus meticulous and systematic training in both technical skills and physical conditioning.
There is no denying the recruitment program at the Indonesian Badminton Center in Cipayung, East Jakarta, has been deficient. The Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI), which supervises the center, has picked girls who were already past the ideal age for development.
In the last recruitment, PBSI selected only three teenagers, all older than 17; the ideal age for players to be selected for national training is at most 15. They need two-year grooming programs at the center before PBSI can send them abroad to compete in one to three star tournaments.
Personal bias and dislikes in PBSI's talent scouting department must be eradicated, with officials realizing that their role is to boost the performances of all their charges.
The implementation of systematic training may have far- reaching and painful consequences as the women's singles and doubles coaches -- Liang Chiusia and Imelda Wigoeno -- seem unable to help their players achieve results in international tournaments.
Their performances, especially first singles Lidya Djaelawidjaja, in the Uber Cup showed the lack of achievement from the training program.
The idea of replacing the coaches with men's singles coaches such as Mulyo Handoyo, Agus Dwi Santoso or Joko Suprianto has been under PBSI's consideration since late 1998. It has been shelved after PBSI chairman Subagyo Hadisiswoyo considered it unwise.
His refusal has come as Indonesian women, on a par with the Chinese only four years ago, have become also-rans in international events.
They lack physical conditioning and cannot match the athletic prowess of the Chinese. Without a special physical trainer in the center, it is difficult for coaches to concentrate on both improving athletes' technical skills and increase their physical fitness.
The three-week course of physical trainer Tahir Djide for doubles and Ridwan Soemardjo for singles prior to the championships was ineffective.
In only three weeks, there was nothing they could do but to maintain their fitness. In the future, PBSI must recruit trainers on a full-time basis. All players, of all standings, must be required to participate in the programs.
PBSI also must concentrate on recruiting as many young players as possible to be trained in both technical skills and physical conditioning. It must dare to field them to compete in both singles and doubles and probably mixed doubles.
Chinese head coach Li Yongbo shared his secret of success: "We have good and systematic training and all athletes train in a very hard way."
When will Indonesian women step up to the center of the podium? Probably not for quite some time, and only after PBSI shows its will to change a losing program to one that works.